Weak glutes is a very common problem that a lot of people aren’t even aware they have. It’s usually accompanied by weak core stabilising muscles, poor pelvic stability, tight hip flexors and often tight hamstrings and/or back pain. The problem becomes progressively worse, because other muscles take over from the weak glutes, leaving them to become even weaker. In order to strengthen up weak glutes, you need to do exercises which specifically target them. This avoids other muscles taking over and doing the work.
What the glutes do
There are 3 glute muscles – minimus, medius and maximus, which carry out various actions at the hip joint. The largest of the 3 – the gluteus maximus is very developed in humans because it is what holds us in an upright standing position. This is strong glutes are important for good posture. It’s also why weak glutes can cause back pain. The movements the glutes carry out are:
- Extension (taking the leg behind the body or extending from hip flexion as in squats and glute bridges)
- Abduction (lifting the leg to the side)
- Inward and outward rotation of the leg
Why the glutes get weak
There are lots of reasons why weakness in the glutes and the associated weakness and tightness of other muscles develop. These include:
- Inactive lifestyles / too much time sitting
- Being overweight
- Injuries that cause alteration to movement patterns (even if only temporary)
- Wearing high heels regularly
Weak glutes symptoms
How do you know if your glutes are weak? Glute weakness isn’t always obvious, because other muscles take over from the glutes. If you have any of the following problems, they may be due to weak glutes:
- Lower back pain
- Poor abdominal tone
- Tight hamstrings
- Frequent running injuries
- Stability problems when weight is on one leg
Exercises for weak glutes – a 6 week program
These 6 exercises focus on activating the glute muscles, making sure they get worked rather than the hamstring and back muscles taking over. The 6 week program increases the number of reps of each exercise every week so that you will gradually build up your glute strength.
Before you do the workout, please read these general exercise guidelines.
You’ll need an exercise mat or some other form of cushioning for the workout. If you don’t have a mat then use a folded blanket.
#1 Leg lifts
- Start from an all-4s kneeling position.
- Straighten one leg and keeping your back straight, lift your leg until it is parallel with the floor.
- Make sure that you don’t lift too high and that you don’t arch your back.
- Lower and repeat. When you’ve done all your lifts, repeat on the other leg.
#2 Fire hydrant
- Start from the all-4s position again.
- Lift one leg out to to side, making sure your knee stays bent at 90°.
- Lift as high as you can without rotating your spine and pelvis, then lower and repeat. Do all your lifts, then repeat on the other leg.
#3 Glute bridge
- Start by lying on the floor with your knees bent and feet about hip distance apart.
- Contract your glute muscles to lift your hips up off the floor into the bridge position. You should finish with your body making a straight line as shown.
- Release back down and repeat.
#4 Side lying leg lift
- Start by lying on your side with your head supported on your arm, your supporting leg slightly bent and your other arm in front to help steady your body.
- Making sure you don’t allow your body to lean backwards, lift and lower your right leg. Keep your foot flexed and pointed slightly towards the floor. When you’ve done all your lifts, roll over and repeat on the other leg.
# 5 Side lying leg circles
Lift your leg as for the leg raise, then make small circles clockwise for the number on the chart, followed by circles anticlockwise for the same number. Then roll over and repeat on the other leg.
- The starting position is similar to the last 2 exercises, except that the top leg is also bent.
- Keeping your feet together, rotate your top leg from your hip to lift your knee. Make sure you don’t rotate your pelvis, it’s only the leg that should be moving.
- Lower and repeat. When you’ve done all your lifts, roll over and repeat on the other side.
These are the reps for the 6 week program. For single leg exercises, the number is for each leg. For the leg circles, the number is for each direction, so in week 1 for example you would do 5 clockwise and 5 anticlockwise.
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